An Afghan child stands next her family’s belongings after disembarking from a ferry with other refugees and migrants at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, on October 1.
The revamped migration policy announced by the Greek government was a desperate attempt to bring the problem under relative and partial control in the short term. At the same time, the measures were an equally desperate attempt to ease the tension on the eastern Aegean islands and parts of the mainland due to increased migration flows or forced resettlements around the country. Meanwhile, the conservative prime minister is making a desperate effort to persuade Greece’s European partners to shoulder some of the burden, which will soon become unsustainable.
Realistically speaking, the prognosis is not good. As this column has said before, Ankara on the one hand wants to rid itself of the largest possible number of migrants stranded on Turkish territory and, on the other, is using the migrant crisis as a tool in order to force Greece onto the ropes (Ankara is also blackmailing the European Union, of course, but only on the rhetorical level).
Regrettably, Greece’s geographical location, with dozens of islands in close proximity to Turkey, combined with the reluctance of European governments to help the country to deal with the migration flows, demonstrates that we rely on the will of third parties. In short, we are in a deadlock.
It has to be understood that the migration problem is here to stay. In light of this, we must all – not just the current or the next administration – pay special attention to protecting the country’s cohesion. Meanwhile, dark clouds are gathering around the globe which, in one way or another, makes things even harder for Greece. Earlier this week, Nicholas Burns, former US ambassador in Athens, said that a US under Donald Trump would not step in in the event of a “hot incident” with Turkey. Sure, this was an assessment by a former diplomat, but it does support the realists’ claim that not much is to be expected from the current administration in Washington. After all, Trump makes no secret of his fondness for Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
So Greece is on its own when it comes to Turkey (as the EU is degenerating into a United Nations-like talking-shop, showing little determination vis-a-vis Turkey) and, to a large extent, the Cyprus issue. After the US recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, it has now said that Israeli settlements on the West Bank are no longer considered illegal.
Meanwhile, taking into account that Turkey was allowed to invade Syria and that Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the independence of Kosovo are being gradually accepted, the conclusion is clear: Negotiations rarely reverse the effects of an invasion or violent secession. Turkey’s 1974 invasion of northern Cyprus is one such case.